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Photos! Hometown Holidays lights up Courthouse Square

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Photos! Hometown Holidays lights up Courthouse Square

Accompanied by parents or grandparents, happy kids with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads thronged downtown Redwood City Saturday, Dec. 4, as the annual Hometown Holidays event returned to Courthouse Square. The 15th annual celebration began at 10 a.m. and included a full day of fun—music, food, arts and crafts for sale, carnival rides and a chance to roll around in a snow lot. Crowds then gathered along Broadway to watch a parade that included costumed reenactors from the Bethlehem AD tableau, school kids, a lighted SamTrans bus, a marching band and other units, followed by the arrival of Santa Claus on a float. As darkness descended, the lighting of the Courthouse Square holiday tree provided the grand finale.

The merriment wasn’t over, though.  Shortly after Hometown Holidays ended, the Caltrain Holiday Train rolled into the Redwood City train station, glowing with thousands of lights. Families got a chance to see Santa, Frosty and other characters and listen to live music, as well as to drop off a toy donation for the Marines’ Toys for Tots program and the Salvation Army, which provided the train’s brass band.

Millbrae Art & Wine Festival returns to Broadway

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Millbrae Art & Wine Festival returns to Broadway for its 50th anniversary

A Peninsula event is turning 50 and everyone is invited to the party. The Millbrae Chamber of Commerce’s 50th Millbrae Art & Wine Festival will return to downtown along Broadway this Labor Day weekend, with a host of activities planned for Sat.-Sun., Sept. 4-5 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free.

The festival will take place on Broadway—located one block west of El Camino Real—between 200 Victoria Ave. and 979 Meadow Glen Ave., the Chamber said.

Festivities will include gourmet food, alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks, live music by Gary Pellegrini’s Band coupled with a Classically Cool Car Show (in the parking lot on Broadway’s 200 block) and handcrafted works for sale by 300 artisans.

Other festival highlights will include a Kids’ Zone (900 block of Broadway at Meadow Glen Ave.), an organic and green products showcase, artisan specialty treats, home and garden exhibits and health and wellness displays, according to the Chamber.

“In an effort to keep our festival attendees, volunteers, artists, sponsors, vendors and staff safe during the event, face masks must be worn at festival booths and in all enclosed areas and crowded spaces,” stated Chamber officials.

Anyone wishing to volunteer can contact the Chamber at For more info about the festival, click here.

Local feline wins high-five honors

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A Redwood City cat who was transformed by training from a gun-shy semi-feral into quite a pussycat has won top prize in a national competition aimed at helping shelter cats become adoptable.

Matilda, a 2-plus-year-old tuxedo cat who came to live at Whis-purr Rescue, Inc.  in March 2019, has been named the Grand Prize Winner in the Third Annual Cat Pawsitive National High-Five Day Contest. Matilda’s paw-erful performance scored a $5,000 grant for Whis-purr Rescue, which will also receive personal consultation training with Jackson Galaxy, well-known as a cat behavior expert who hosts the Animal Planet show “My Cat From Hell.”

Lucy Brock, co-founder and rescue director of the center at 346 El Camino Real, says Matilda is just one of the shelter’s 27 cats who have benefitted since they started Galaxy’s training method in January 2020. “There’s been so much change in these cats’ lives since we started,” she says. “It’s just amazing.”

The cats have been learning to do “behaviors”—not to be confused with “tricks”—such as ringing bells, spinning around, playing a piano, “nose touches,” and sitting up, in addition to “high-fiving” with an outstretched paw.

This year’s Cat Pawsitive contest kicked off March 22, and Galaxy selected the top 25 high-five finalists for the public to vote on from April 8 to 14. Among the feline few was Matilda, whose bipartite bell-ringing/high-five combo was posted online for all to see.

Whis-purr Rescue staff and supporters pushed to get out the vote for the local girl.  Matilda’s clever bell-ringing high-five won 4,997 votes, according to a news release from the organizers, who say the contest celebrates the success of the life-saving Cat Pawsitive initiative of The Jackson Galaxy Project, a program of  Greater Good Charities.

The initiative aims to save the lives of shelter and rescue cats by increasing their adoption rates. Shelter staff and volunteers are taught how to implement Galaxy’s positive reinforcement training for cats and includes “a signature move—teaching them to high-five.” To see Matilda, go here, and also the semifinalists here.

Matilda and her sister Moxie and brother Maverick were rescue cats who came to Whis-purr from Half Moon Bay at about three months old. All three were “pretty feral and didn’t want to have anything to do with people,” Brock says.

Volunteer trainer Talia Martin can’t have cats of her own (her husband is allergic) so she’s happy to spend hours at the shelter training a dozen cats. Their behavior and reactions, down to body language, posture and making eye contact, have been recorded in a binder since the training started.

Gradually, curiosity—or perhaps the scent of treats—got the best of shy or invisible cats who began to come down from cat trees to train on the floor with Brock, Martin or volunteer Sydney Leung. One of the cats wouldn’t come close enough to be petted, Martin recalls. Now he grabs her hand.

Whis-purr Rescue picked up a cat called Ryder who was going to be euthanized at another shelter because he was “too feral,” Brock says. “We couldn’t pet him. And if you went to him, he’d run. And if you did stay, he’d whack you.” So she was quite surprised one day while training another cat when Ryder came weaving in and out between other cats, rolled around and started purring.

Brock wants to get more tips from Galaxy about moving Ryder to a higher lovability level. “We want to get him homed,” she says. “It’s great in this (training) room, but we need to be able to translate it into a home environment.”

A shelter cat, she adds, isn’t the “yippy skippy cat that’s going to come and get right up on your lap,” and it takes effort to bring out the pussycat within. “They’re becoming more adoptable every day,” Brock says. “And I’m not in a hurry. I just want to make sure they get the right home.”

Photo of high-fiving Matilda credited to Greater Good Charities

North Fair Oaks clinic to offer COVID-19 vaccinations weekly starting Sunday

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No-appointment vaccine clinic in North Fair Oaks starts Sunday thanks to private-public partnership

Thanks to a new public-private partnership, the COVID-19 vaccine clinic in North Fair Oaks will continue to operate on a weekly basis, with enhancements, starting this Sunday.

The NFO clinic, which will offer a more predictable schedule as well as drive-through and walk-up registration without an appointment, will be held Sundays between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. at Fair Oaks Health Center, 2710 Middlefield Road.

The new partnership involves San Mateo County, Dignity Health, Sequoia Healthcare District and the city of Redwood City. Their goal is to provide reliable vaccine access to a neighborhood that was among the County’s hardest hit by the COVID-19 virus.

“Dignity Health and the city of Redwood City will assume most of the operational functions of the site while Sequoia Healthcare District provides funding,” said the County, which will continue to assist with outreach in English and Spanish, including door-to-door canvassing.

“From the beginning, we’ve said that our comeback depends on all of us, and that also means it depends on all of us working together to meet residents where they are at,” said Supervisor Warren Slocum, whose Fourth District includes North Fair Oaks.

Bill Graham, president of Dignity Health Sequoia Hospital, said the partnership will eliminate barriers to vaccinations for local residents, “many of whom have difficulty accessing high-volume vaccination sites due to work schedules and access to transportation, or they lack the technology to book appointments online.”

Redwood City Mayor Diane Howard also lauded the collaboration, adding, “We are all eager to welcome some level of normalcy back into our lives, and these vaccination clinics will be instrumental in getting us there.”

Learn more about vaccination opportunities in San Mateo County here.

Photo courtesy of San Mateo County

San Mateo Public Library locations to open to public May 3

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All three San Mateo Public Library locations will open to the public for browsing, holds pickup and limited computer use starting May 3.

Patrons are encouraged to limit their stay to 60 minutes, and face coverings and social distancing guidelines are required at all times.

“In-person reference will be available on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floors,” the Library system said. “Other services include magazine checkout, wi-fi, and limited study tables (one person per table). The Friends of the Library bookstore will be open.”

Last week, San Mateo County Libraries reopened most of its libraries with modifications for the first time since the pandemic began in March 2020.

All Redwood City Public Library locations are currently closed, but all locations offer Curbside Pickup services.

Photo courtesy of San Mateo Public Library

Bicycle Sunday returns to Cañada Road on May 2

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Bicycle Sunday to resume on Cañada Road

Bicycle Sunday, which allows only non-motorized activities on a 3.8-mile segment of Cañada Road in Woodside along Crystal Springs Regional Trail, will resume Sunday, May 2.

The section of Cañada Road between Highway 92 and immediately north of the Filoli entrance will be closed to cars and motorcycles from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Activities like walking, jogging, bicycling, hiking and roller-skating are allowed.

“The Filoli entrance gate will be accessible to northbound traffic,” according to San Mateo County Parks. “Road barricades and park staff will be present to redirect motorized traffic and assist Bicycle Sunday participants.”

The program occurs every Sunday on non-holiday weekends and is funded by the San Mateo County Parks Foundation.

For more information, visit here.

Photo courtesy of San Mateo County Parks

Farmers’ markets in Redwood City, San Mateo set to reopen

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Farmers markets in Redwood City, San Mateo set to open

The Redwood City Kiwanis Farmers Market, located in the 500 block of Arguello Street near Sequoia Street, is reopening Saturday, May 1. The market, the oldest and largest on the Peninsula, will continue Saturdays from 8 a.m. until noon through Nov. 27.

In San Mateo, the 25th Avenue Farmers’ Market returns next week. The market, located at 194 W 25th Ave., runs May through mid October, rain or shine, every Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Other farmers markets locally include the San Carlos Farmers Market, which operates Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Industrial Arts District on Bayport Avenue and Varian Street, near Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company and wineries Cuvee, Flying Suitcase, Russian Ridge, and Domenic.

The Belmont Farmers’ Market runs yearround on Sundays at El Camino Real and O’Neal Street from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Photo credited to the 25th Avenue Farmers’ Market

Caltrain begins safety improvements at 5 at-grade crossings in San Mateo, Menlo Park

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Project to improve at-grade crossings in San Mateo to impact parking

A Caltrain project to improve at-grade crossings (intersections where train tracks cross a street) will prompt parking restrictions on 1st, 2nd and 3rd avenues in San Mateo next week.

Parking restrictions will start Monday, May 3 on 1st Street and should conclude by the end of the week, according to Caltrain.

“The parking restrictions are needed to allow cars to go safely around the striping work,” according to the transit agency.

The project includes safety improvements at five at-grade crossings in San Mateo and Menlo Park. The San Mateo crossings receiving improvements are 1st, 2nd and 3rd avenues at S. Railroad Ave., and also at Glenwood Ave. and Garwood Way and Oak Grove Ave. and Merrill St. in Menlo Park

The upgrades will include “clearly-marked pedestrian crossings with new paint striping and lettering, and pavement markers,” as well as the installation of a fixed concrete median with flexible bollards designed to prevent motorists from driving around lowered crossing gates.

For more information about the project, visit here.

Photo courtesy of Caltrain

Drive-thru COVID-19 vaccinations to return to Event Center as supplies increase

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A mass, drive-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic is returning to the San Mateo County Event Center on a weekly basis starting Thursday due to increasing federal supply of vaccine, the County announced Tuesday.

“The County plans to operate two to three mass vaccination weekly events going forward, depending on supply, with the Event Center site capable of administering approximately 4,000 doses in a day,” the County said.

Meanwhile, the County will continue providing smaller-scale, community-focused vaccination clinics in North Fair Oaks, East Palo Alto, San Mateo, Daly City, El Granada and Half Moon Bay.

Also, the San Mateo Medical Center is using a batch of about 10,000 vaccine doses per week, procured via a federal program of the Health Resources and Services Administration, to conduct mass vaccination efforts targeting populations of homeless, farmworkers and residents in communities where vaccination rates have been lower than the county average.

“Very soon we believe we will have enough vaccine for everyone who wants it, and we hope that is everyone in this county,” County Manager Mike Callagy said. “The more vaccinations we can get out there quickly, the safer this county becomes and the sooner we can move forward to our new life post COVID-19. We need to have everyone think of this vaccine as a life saving measure that moves us closer to normalcy.”

As of April 26, 444,776 residents have been vaccinated, or about 69.4 percent of the total eligible county adult population, according to the California Immunization Registry. Of 115,058 residents 65 and older, 88.5 percent have been vaccinated.

Anyone 16 or over can make appointments up to three days in advance for the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Anyone 18 or over can make appointments to receive the first dose of the Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. While the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was temporarily paused for further study over rare cases of blood clots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave the greenlight Friday to resume its use, and Bay Area health officials collectively agree that it is safe to administer. Participants will be informed about which vaccine is being administered.

Residents under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Sign up for appointments via the States’s MyTurn system at

Photo credited to San Mateo County

San Mateo County may be losing residents, but housing demand high as ever

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San Mateo County may be losing residents, but housing demand high as ever

More people are moving out of San Mateo County than moving in, a trend that significantly accelerated during the pandemic, U.S. Postal Service change-of-address data suggests. And yet, the real estate market in San Mateo County is as hot as ever. 

“I have been doing this for nearly 20 years in SMC and I have never seen an influx of buyers like we have had over the last 180 days, especially over the last 90,” said Bob Bredel, co-founder of San Carlos-based Dwell Realtors. 

A 4,000 square-foot Emerald Hills home initially projected at $4.7 million recently sold for over $5.5 million within seven days, said Vicky Costantini, who runs Compass along with her son, Enzo. According to the 16-year real estate veteran, “We couldn’t price it high enough.” 

The sizzling local home market appears at odds with ongoing migration patterns. In 2018, 70,717 residents permanently changed their addresses to zip codes outside the County, while 63,244 changed theirs from out-of-County locations to zip codes within the County, a net migration loss of 3,470, according to U.S Postal Service data. The data suggests the net loss increased the following year to 5,588, then accelerated during the pandemic in 2020, when it shot up to 14,218, with 84,068 leaving the County and 69,850 moving in.

U.S. Postal Service change-of-address data suggest San Mateo County has experienced a net migration loss of residents annually since 2018, meaning more residents moved out of the County than moved in.

The data also suggest the pace of exodus isn’t slowing. In the first two months of this year, the County has experienced a net migration loss of 2,540, nearly matching the net loss for all of 2018, according to the data.

Of course, change-of-address data don’t paint the full migration picture. For one, some people don’t notify USPS when they move. And while the data points to an ongoing exodus, the demand for real estate in the County remains strong, particularly for single-family homes. In March this year, the median price of a single-family home in San Mateo County was $1.985 million, according to data from the California Association of Realtors, which is $235,000 more than in the same month the previous year, and $375,000 more than in March 2019.   

Buyers wanting a better deal can look toward the multi-unit market, which “has gone way down” due in part to the pandemic’s impacts and rent control, Constantini said. Rents are down about 30 percent and vacancies are up about 15 percent, which then affects the sales price of multi-unit properties, which is down about 12-20 percent depending on the building, she said.

“Another factor is renovation costs are through the roof,” Constantini said, with spikes in prices on lumber and other building materials making buildings that need work “the toughest to sell currently.”

And yet, the market for single-family homes remains through the roof. A low inventory of homes doesn’t adequately explain the phenomenon, Bredel said. 

We have had low inventory in really every year since 2013,” he said. “The prime difference this year is the number of buyers stacked at each house.  They are stacked 10 and 20 deep at each new listing. All well qualified and serious.” 

Bredel wonders how many people want to move to San Mateo County, but “can’t because they are being outbid on every house or are simply stalled on their housing search.” 

My feeling is this number is as high as it has ever been,” he said. 

To better understand migration patterns, one must also look at who are moving in, who are leaving and for what reasons. 

Costantini describes many single-family home buyers as young tech workers in their 30s, graduates of top schools like Stanford and UC Berkeley, some working for companies that recently went public. 

“They are all coming in with cash, quick closes, zero contingencies,” she said.

The top destination counties for people who filed change of address requests in San Mateo County last year. For example, 40,483 people requested to change their address to another location within San Mateo County, while 8,499 requested to change their address to a location in Santa Clara County.

Bredel suspects one of the larger pools of new citizens in the County is former San Francisco residents. 

“There is no doubt in my mind that many folks gave up the city to have a yard, community, parks, etc, that were more accessible,” he said. 

Costantini echoed Bredel’s observations and added that many of those deciding to move out of San Mateo County may also be families desiring more space and other quality-of-life improvements. While much has been said in national media about Californians leaving Texas for political reasons, migration patterns suggest that the large majority of those departing San Mateo County remained in the state.  

San Mateo County’s middle-class homeowners are being drawn to communities that are less expensive, have less crime and better schools, Constantini said. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the trend, in part due to worsening of quality-of-life conditions and the rise of telecommuting, she added. 

“The regular middle-class family are finding themselves extremely equity rich,” she said. “In Rocklin (Placer County), they can have pool, huge yard…it’s like Redwood City 16 years ago except brand new.” 

With geographical limitations on building in San Mateo CountyConstantini says she doesn’t see an end to rising prices, albeit there may be fluctuations. That means the influx of young wealthy technology workers will likely continue. 

“They’re doing a lot of good things as well,” Constantini said. “What I hope is that they improve our schools” and “give something back to the community.” 

Photo credit: Getty images

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